Brown collar worker Omar Lutfey here with yet another end of the year summary of the wildly important and utterly trivial events. I leave it up to you, the reader, to determine which is which.
In January it was decided that the kids were old enough and Grandma was young enough to hang out with each other for a week while Katherine and I took our first vacation with just the two of us since before our children existed. We jumped on an airplane that took us to Quito, Ecuador in an adventure I’m calling “South of the Equator Shenanigans.”
Naturally this type of trip involved an above average number of activities which would be thought of as “heavy breathing.” Walking around, for example, seemed to require twice as much air as in Loveland, Colorado. It turns out the elevation of Quito is almost double that of our home town. We rode a gondola up to triple our usual height above sea level where keeping our heads upright became a surprisingly strenuous activity. Even then we weren’t at the very top– we wisely declined to hike to the summit at 15,696 feet. Numerous people over the years have reached the end of the trail only to have all of the atoms of their body spontaneously disperse into the upper stratosphere.
Oxygen levels aside, life in Quito is quite different than what I’ve grown to expect. Posted hours for when restaurants are going to be open are more of a suggestion than a strict guideline. Think of it more as “if we are going to be open at all, it will be quite likely between these hours.” We saw the place right next to our hotel open once during the week despite walking by a dozen times during the week when they “should” have been open according to their sign.
Negotiating with cab drivers was another new skill we acquired in Ecuador. Interviewing someone who wants to drive you somewhere is an essential activity. Here are just a few of the questions we often asked.
“How much to drive us to our hotel?”
“Will that vehicle actually get us to our destination?”
“Are you really a cab driver?”
Due to the extreme elevation range and close proximity to the equator, the area can easily grow literally every type of plant that currently exists on Earth. The Supermaxi sold 14 different types of potatoes and I suspect we could have found twice as many at the local food market. While at the local grocery store I saw several types of fruits and vegetables that up until that point I thought were works of fiction including Audrey II from “The Little Shop of Horrors.”
Are there any down sides to Quito? Sure. Cram 2 million people into a few square miles and the result is going to be a dirty noisy affair. While I personally felt safe walking around during the day, the building code requires all structures to be protected by at least three of the following security measures: A six foot tall concrete wall (shards of broken glass at the top is optional), metal fences with pointy tops, electric wires, and barbed wire. I suspect attempts at incorporating any of these into our current home would meet significant opposition from our homeowners association.
In game night news, we continued a longstanding tradition of altering board game rules for our own amusement. Some of the more common unwritten rules of Monopoly include putting fees paid into the center for the next player who lands on free parking, players collecting $400 for landing exactly on “Go”, and dad frequently “forgetting” to collect rent from mom. On game night we created a new Monopoly house rule where in order to collect rent for the first time you have to provide a detailed description of the properties amenities.
Mediterranean Avenue: Due to the fact that rent is only $2 a night we are unable to provide clean sheets for each guest. In fact there is no bed, but rather you can sleep in the broken lazy boy in the lobby. If said chair is occupied guests may choose to sleep in front of the establishment under the tattered awning. Children twelve and under are welcome to countless hours of fun with our complimentary “Bag Of Rats.”
Chez Chaz: Formerly known as Saint Charles Place, Chez Chaz offers the best fusion of French-Irish culture since Christopher Lambert played an immortal Irish alien in the 1986 box office blockbuster “Highlander.” Just try finding two other words that end in Z and don’t rhyme. Our free breakfast bar consists solely of our patented “pieces of yogurt” which, in all honesty, is most likely a major health code violation.
Illinois Ave: We offer our guests a state of the art breakfast bar claw game. Test your hand/eye coordination as you maneuver frozen waffles, greasy bacon, and steaming hot bowls of oatmeal with the mechanical claw. The first round is of course complementary, and any additional attempts are quite reasonably priced at $1 each. Good luck!
It turns out the title “2022 Christmas Letter” doesn’t really catch the glowing-eye orbs of the Internet search engine attention-bots. I firmly believe “YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE WHICH MEMBER OF MY FAMILY WAS PLACED IN AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE!” along with a thumbnail image of me slapping my cheeks “Home Alone” style next to a pixelated light brown blob will exponentially increase my “influencer” status. [Spoiler alert– it was our dog Mya]
Alert readers of my past letters will be thinking, “I thought you only had one dog. Who did Mya marry?” [Spoiler alert– it was our new dog Buddy.] OK, so this doesn’t degrade into a running-backwards-in-time situation comedy episode I’ll start at the beginning of the story. Back in the spring one of my inlaw’s neighbors was working on “getting her affairs in order” by writing a will. As a friendly gesture we agreed to take Buddy. A few weeks later she passed away and we were the new owners of a Basset Hound Beagle mix. Since then we have defined him to be a completely new breed of dog called a Bagel. After a few days the kids decided to marry the dogs in a simple yet dignified ceremony. We all sleep better knowing these two are no longer living in sin. Conversely, we all sleep worse because Buddy likes to bark at four in the morning for reasons that still remain a mystery to all of us.
After unlocking “Riding My Age In Miles On A Bike” last year I started looking for a slightly more ambitious exercise goal. Traveling 1000 miles on my bicycle seemed reasonable. I did the maths and I only needed to ride 2.7 miles each day. On a weekly basis this works out to less than two hours a week. I devised a simple plan I like to call “do two hours less of stupid things each week and get on a bike instead.” For example, when I started streaming movies such as “Highlander 2”, “Battlefield Earth”, and “Shakes The Clown” I would turn off the television and go for a ride. While it sounds complex and difficult to implement, by the end of the year I added a fourth digit to my odometer. When the dust settled I rode 1253 miles.
While I was getting dressed this weekend I came to the realization that everything I put on was purchased by my wife from Costco. For a brief moment I thought I was really, really uncool. Then I realized Katherine is awesome and Costco sells very, very comfortable clothes. Why did it take half my life to appreciate the benefits of pants with elasticated waistbands?
To wrap things up I’ve included a few completely out of context electronic messages I composed over the past 12 months:
I don’t know how you’ve gotten this far in life without a monocle.
When all is said and done, I can’t stay mad at someone who dressed up as me for Halloween.
It was one of those times when I wished I was twenty years younger but somehow not twenty years stupider.